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I frequently take the following loop"

Take US-71 south to Adrian. Take MO 18 east about 25-30 miles to a road on 
your right marked RA. (Stands for "Refuge Access.") RA should be a short 
distance east of County Hiway K, which connects MO 18 to Urich.

MONTROSE

Drive a couple of miles south on RA until you see a sign for a church. Go 
left over a bridge then right at the church (S) past a log house on the 
right. The area past the log house is good for song birds like chickadee, 
titmouse, red-bellied woodpecker, white-throated Sparrow, eastern phoebe, 
Carolina wren white-breasted nuthatch and perhaps yellow-rumped warbler 
and/or a kinglet.. If you have a barred Owl tape or can mimic a Barred Owl, 
you should see one there.

After a few minutes at that spot, keep going a short distance and follow the 
road as it veers west back to RA. Proceed South on RA to the Montrose W.M.A. 
You should find some waterfowl and perhaps some early shorebirds there. You 
can also check out the campground for songbirds and woodpeckers. (Montrose 
is about 10 miles south of MO 18).

Past the campground, the road briefly turns east and then south across the 
western end of the Montrose Power Lake. The bridge across the power lake is 
always a good place for waterfowl, gulls and early shorebirds. There should 
also be white pelicans and perhaps an early Great Egret there.

When  you have looked at the birds from the bridge over the power lake, 
proceed south through the small town of Montrose. When 18 joins 52 Hiway (by 
a carwash) turn left (east) on MO 52 and stop at a Casey's for gas, snacks 
and a bathroom. (You can make a brief excursion a block or two south on 52 
and check the martin house for early purple martins, if you wish, returning 
to Casey's.)

From Casey's, go east on MO 52 about 1 mile and take gravel road SW 1011 
south. This will take you through some reclaimed strip mine area, where the 
occasional Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk and other open country raptors 
are a possibility. SW1011 goes about 3 miles to a T. About 3/4 of a mile 
S.of MO 18, you  will see a cross road going east past some ponds bordered 
by cattails. The entrances to these ponds are purple posted (No Trespassing) 
and there are some RVs at the end of one of them. Check the cattails by  the 
road as you go by these ponds for Song and Swamp Sparrows. Marsh Wren and 
Sora are also found here, although April is a better time for them.. Vespers 
Sparrows are often seen just east of the last pond.

After briefly checking out the ponds (for ducks and decoys), proceed south 
on SW1011 through reclaimed strip mine land, which should harbor savannah 
sparrows, horned larks and maybe le conte's sparrows in the grass by the 
road. This open country has produced Prairie Falcon and Ferruginous Hawk in 
the past, but these are rare.

When SW1011 ends at a T, go right.  The pasture on the west side of SW 1011 
at that corner has been good for Smith's Longspurs, Vesper Sparrows, Horned 
Larks and other grassland sparrows, including le contes in damp grassy 
swales. Sprague's Pipit also shows up there occasionally, probably in April 
and/or October. The whole area continues to be good for open county raptors. 
Western Meadowlarks occasionally sing there.

TABERVILLE PRAIRIE

The right turn where SW 1011 ends at a T goes east a mile or so to MO 52. 
Or you can take the first left and follow that a mile or so to the end , 
then jog east to MO 52. MO 52 takes you south until it suddenly jogs west 
toward Appleton City. At that juncture, keep going south on County A until 
it becomes County H. (Do not take AA). H takes you about 15 miles south to 
the area of the Taberville Prairie. Birding Taberville Prairie starts where 
north/south County H intersects east/west County B. (There are silos and a 
feed lot there. Look in the feed lot, and farther on wherever there are 
cattle feeding areas for Great-tailed Grackle and Brewer's Blackbird.)

There are two Prairie Chicken leks in the vicinity of the Taberville 
Prairie. On can be accessed by going south on H, then taking  NW 200 east to 
a parking lot from which you can overlook and walk the prairie. The lek is 
not on the prairie, but rather is on private land near a corral on the south 
side of NW 200. Listen for their strange cooing sounds.

If you walk the prairie from the parking lot at the end of NW 200, you are 
apt to flush savannah and le contes sparrows. Smith's longspur are also a 
possibility here. However they like sparse, feathery white grass, not the 
thick, long prairie grass, and you may have to walk quite a bit of prairie 
to find it.

 In the alternative, proceed east from the juncture of H and B (i.e. the 
feedlot) on B and take your first red gravel road (I believe it's NW 1001) 
east after a mile and a half or so. This east west gravel road will take you 
around the east side of the prairie, where there is another lek. That lek is 
also on private agricultural land on the east side of the road. About two 
miles along the red gravel road, there is another road (also labeled 200), 
which leads west to another parking lot accessing the prairie. However, this 
road is blocked by a barbed wire gate. Keep going south on the gravel road. 
The prairie chicken lek is on the left a few hundred yards past 200.

At this point, a word about Prairie Chickens. They do their booming fairly 
early in the morning. If you start to late, and/or you spend too much time 
birding the Montrose area, they may be done by the time they get there. You 
have a pretty good chance of hearing them until 8-9 a.m. They hang around on 
the lek for a while after they stop their display, so you can probably still 
see some  -- especially on the east side of the prairie -- until 9-10 a.m. 
However, they may just be sitting there, looming like lumps if they display 
has stopped. If Prairie Chicken is you primary target, you need to make sure 
you get to Taberville fairly early.

If you want to go directly to Taberville from Kansas City, take US-71 to 
Rich Hill, then go east on B until it intersects with H.

If you want to go around the gate (which is meant to block cars, not 
pedestrians) on 200 on the east side of the prairie, you have a shot at 
sparrows and possibly a Bewick's Wren in the brush along the road.

The east side of the prairie is also good for open country raptors like 
Rough-legged Hawk and Prairie Falcon. If any portion of the prairie has been 
burned, scan it for Am. Golden-plovers.

SCHELL OSAGE W.M.A.

The N/S gravel road along the east side of the prairie ends in County BB. 
Take that west back to H. Take H south through Taberville, across a bridge 
and past some fish farms to County Y, which goes east toward Schell Osage 
W.M.A. After 4-5 miles on Y, you should see a sign directing you to go north 
into Schell Osage W.M.A.

When you get into the refuge, explore the roads there. One road, which goes 
north a few hundred miles east of the Evelyn Johnson Shorebird Marsh goes 
past a gigantic occupied Bald Eagle nest on the right.

When you have birded the roads within the refuge, check out the pines by the 
headquarters for kinglets, roosting owls, etc. The gravel road that goes 
south past the headquarters has hedges on both side which hold sparrows. 
Exit the refuge just to the west of the headquarters. County RA takes you 
out to a road that will lead you to Schell City. Proceed past Schell City 
and take County M north. That will take you to County B. Going west on 
County B will take you to Rich Hill by US-71.

RICH HILL

There is a hot dog/ice cream stand in Rich Hill visible from and not far 
from the highway. The north/south street which goes by that stand is 14th 
street. Take 14th Street south a few block to a grain elevator, where I have 
always found Eurasian Collared Doves.

4-RIVER W.M.A.

When I am making a day of it, I can usually do all of the above, plus 
4-Rivers W.M.A. south of Rich Hill. 4-Rivers should produce lots of ducks, 
Red-shoulder Hawk, etc. 4-Rivers (also called "August Busch W.M. A.) has 3 
separate units which are accessible by going south from Rich Hill. I'll 
leave describing 4-Rivers and how to get there to another time.

Return to K.C. by US-71.

Good luck.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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